Reporters Without Borders condemns the recent attacks on journalists by the Iraqi security forces. The authorities are resorting to every kind of method to censor the news, including physical attacks, lawsuits and raids on news media offices.
Reporters and cameramen from local and international satellite TV stations were beaten and detained by the security forces while covering a demonstration in central Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on 25 May. Biladi TV reporter Omar Abdul Al-Razak and cameraman Hassan Ghazi, Russia Al-Youm cameraman Hussein Ali Hussein and Ain news agency photographer Akeel Mohamed were repeatedly hit, their cameras were smashed, their mobile phones were seized and they were forced to leave the area.
A unit of interior ministry special troops stormed the headquarters of local radio station Sawt Al-Nahda Al-Democratiya on 22 May after it broadcast a programme about the housing crisis and other difficulties being experienced by the population. Founded in April, the station had just filed an application for a licence. Its recording and transmitting equipment was seized.
Many journalists were physically attacked and briefly detained on 8 May in Ramadi, 100 km west of the capital, while covering a demonstration to demand the departure of US troops. They included Al-Rashid TV reporters and cameramen, Ifaq Al-Qadaya correspondent Saad Al ‘Ani and Al-Itijah correspondent Azhar Shalal. As well as being prevented from covering the protest, their equipment was damaged.
Lawsuits are also being used to obstruct the work of the media. In addition to the legal action against Hashem Hassen, in which the first hearing has been postponed until tomorrow (http://en.rsf.org/iraq-star-journalist-sued-by-head-of-21-05-2011,40332....), a complaint has been brought against the daily Al-Mada by Chamber of Representatives speaker Osama Al-Nujaifi. He is demanding a formal apology and 150 million dinars (90,000 euros) in damages from editor Fakhri Karim and reporters Daoud Al-Ali and Ali Hussein for articles criticising the maintenance of quotas in the selection of parliamentarians, bargaining over posts and the shortcomings of a law cutting parliamentarians’ pay.
Reporters Without Borders has learned of the release of two Iraqi journalists. One is Watheq Abbas, a member of the Iraqi Islamic Party and editor of the newspaper Dar Al-Islam, who was released on 16 May, six days after being arrested during a raid by security forces on his home in the Baghdad neighbourhood of Ghazaliyya. His was one of a series of arrests carried out jointly with the US army after a bomb explosion in Ghazaliyya.
The other is Ali Ibrahim Khalil, a sports presenter on Diyala TV, who was released on 15 May, 10 days being arrested in Baqouba (70 km west of Baghdad) while on his way from home to work.
While hailing these releases, Reporters Without Borders points out that Hussein Zaboon Muhsin Muhamadawwi, the editor of the Shiite newspaper Iraquna, has been held ever since his arrest at his east Baghdad office on 8 May by 18 armed men. They did not say why he was being arrested and it is still not known where he is being held. Reporters Without Borders demands his immediate release.
Reporters Without Borders is very worried by the attacks on journalists and news media offices that have been taken place. Security forces fired on the headquarters of Suhail TV on 25 May, apparently because of its news coverage. The headquarters of the Al-Sahwa Net news website and the Saba news agency were attacked the day before.
Suhail TV cameraman Kamel Mahfadi was kidnapped on 25 May while covering clashes between security forces and supporters of Sheikh Sadeq Al, the leader of the Hashid tribe, which is fighting for President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s overthrow.
Mohamed Marsh, the head of Al-Saida Al-Mustaqila TV, was kidnapped on 23 May and taken to an unknown location before being released a few hours later.
Reporters Without Borders hails the release of Moustafa Badr Al-Moubarak and Hossein Kathem Al-Hashem, two bloggers who had been held in a police station the city of Safwa since late April. It urges the authorities to follow suit by releasing Nazir Al-Majid, a writer who was arrested in the eastern city of Khobar on 17 April (http://en.rsf.org/saudi-arabia-from-tripoli-to-manama-no-let-up-02-05-20...).